As much as I love talking about horror tropes, I can’t say that I love meta horror. Actually, I once wrote that meta horror movies need to die. So Scare Package, an anthology whose framing device is nothing but meta, had a steep hill to climb. Find out if they made it in this Scare Package movie review.
Wait, What’s Meta Horror?
How did we talk on those giant phones? Drew Barrymore in Scream, image via Dimension Films
As with any meta genre, meta horror is horror that is self-aware. It may be overt, with characters comparing their situation to real horror movies, or it may be more referential. In some cases, meta horror, like Shaun of the Dead, is clearly a love letter to the movies that came before. In other cases, it’s just a nonstop winkfest apparently designed in expectation that we’ll praise how clever the filmmakers are.
Although horror movies have contained allusions to other movies almost since horror began, meta horror as a genre itself didn’t really become a thing until modern horror. Some examples include Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives and Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. Both are self-referential, but New Nightmare takes it to the extreme. It’s about the filming of a new Nightmare on Elm Street movie and stars former stars of the franchise and Wes Craven himself as themselves. You can consider it a warm-up to Craven’s 1996 film, the movie that most people associate with meta horror, Scream.
The meta-ness of it all starts at the beginning of the film when Ghostface quizzes poor Drew Barrymore’s character about her favorite scary movies. It hits its apex when Randy (Jamie Kennedy) explains the horror movie rules. And after Scream‘s success and its sequels, many meta horrors followed in its wake. Most of them were not half as witty. As with any horror trend, they just became tedious. I was tired of the jokes. I just want to get scared again.
Scare Package Movie Review: But First, the Plot Summary!
image via Shudder
Originally called Tropes, Scare Package is an anthology of seven short films. These films are made to poke fun at horror tropes, particularly those in 80s and early 90s movies. Framing each segment is another short film in itself. At Rad Chad’s Horror Emporium, Chad (Jeremy King) holds court. While fending off an obsessive customer, Sam (Byron Brown), who desperately wants to work there, Chad makes another hire, Hawn (Hawn Tran). In Chad’s view, Hawn needs an education in horror, so he gives him one, sharing the short films that make up the movie.
These films begin with “Cold Open,” which is what it says on the tin–the cold open to the entire movie. Jon Michael Simpson is Mike, a hapless horror movie stock character who wants to be more. It’s his job to set horror movies in motion, by directing the characters to an abandoned mental institution or selling them a haunted house. But he just wants to be one of the gang.
Scare Package Movie Review
image via Shudder
“Cold Open” is a great start for the film, as it’s one of the strongest segments. Simpson is just so darn likable as Mike that you sympathize with him, wanting him to get his big moment, too. The segment that follows, “One Time in the Woods,” is also strong. It features a group of camping friends who run into an unstable man. It’s gory and funny, probably the funniest segment in this horror-comedy.
Other segments, though, are less compelling. I didn’t particularly care for “M.I.S.T.E.R.,” for example, a short about men’s right activists who have found strength through lycanthropy. Werewolfism is for everybody, but the twist in this segment just left me cold. And I’m on the fence about “Girls Night Out of Body,” a film about a trio of friends who eat forbidden candy. While I generally like it, and the way its vibe reminds me of the “Surprise Party” segment of Trick ‘r Treat, it ends up being less satisfying.
image via Shudder
Overall, though my TL;DR review of the movie Scare Package is that many horror fans will get a kick out of it. Like all anthologies tend to be, it’s uneven. While it does start off strong and get progressively weaker, there are moments to enjoy in each part. But can we stop with meta horror now?
Scare Package is available on Shudder.
(Note: I had a devil of a time finding this movie on my TV’s Shudder app. That’s because, for some reason, it’s listed as Psychotic and has completely different cover art. So if you’re trying to find it and a movie called Psychotic keeps coming up, that should be it. It is still Scare Package on the actual website.)
Have you watched Scare Package or are you planning on it? Let us know what you think, here or on social media.
featured image via Shudder
Salomé Gonstad is a freelance writer who grew up in the swampy wilds of south Alabama. She now splits her time between the Appalachian wilds (of Alabama) and the considerably more refined streets of New York City. When she's not yelling about pop culture on the internet, she's working on a supernatural thriller about her hometown. Also, we're pretty sure she's a werewolf.